Taking a closer look at the San Julian settlements reveals the pattern of deforestation more clearly.
Most of the settlers were from Bolivia’s western highlands, and the rest were poor farmers from the Santa Cruz department. A prolonged drought in the 1980s followed by an economic crisis led to further migration to the San Julian settlements. Settlement was much slower than expected. So even though the satellite images show rapid expansion, growth was planned to be even more rapid.
The farmland is organized in a distinct pattern of nucleos. A nucleo is a square block of land, about 2,000 hectares in size. Two to four hectares in the center are designated as communal land, where a deep well for water is located. Some centers have school buildings, soccer fields, marketing centers, medical treatment posts, or cooperative stores. Planners recognized the importance of soccer by making the cancha, or soccer field, a part of the nucleo center layout in each settlement.
The individual farm plots radiate outward from the central communal area and each covers just under 50 hectares. The major crops are maize, sunflowers, and soybeans. The nucleo pattern provides an area of concentrated social and economic interaction.